USHRN Press Release on IACHR Petition Jan 2016



MEDIA CONTACT: Jess St. Louis |404-588-9763 x104


ATLANTA, GA – Yesterday, members of a national coalition, comprised of over 110 groups and individuals working on the human rights to water and sanitation throughout the United States, submitted a petition to return to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) for a U.S.-specific hearing on the human rights to water and sanitation where U.S. government officials would be invited.  This past October, members of the coalition testified at a regional hearing on the rights to water and sanitation in the Americas at the IACHR, highlighting human rights violations in multiple communities throughout the United States.

The current water crisis in Flint, MI where local tap water is poisoned with lead in a city that is 61% Black, as well as the contamination of the San Juan River in the King Gold Mine disaster that has impacted indigenous Navajo communities in Shiprock, New Mexico are just two of the ongoing violations of the basic human rights to water and sanitation in the U.S. that petitioners are calling attention to. The petition also looks at issues of affordability and mass water shut-offs including in Boston, Baltimore, Detroit, Flint, and Lucerne in Lake County, CA, as well as infrastructure and accessibility, all of which have disproportionately impacted low-income communities of color and Indigenous Peoples, particularly the elderly, children, pregnant women, the disabled, the chronically ill, or other vulnerable groups, in both major cities and in rural areas.

“The recent news on the situation in Flint confirms what activists and directly affected communities members there have been telling us for months – namely, that the water is making them sick,” said, Ejim Dike, Executive Director of the US Human Rights Network. “Unfortunately the situation in Flint is not unique. The U.S. systematically denies our human right to life by allowing our communities to live with contaminated drinking water for decades; engaging in mass water shutoffs rather than making water affordable for people living in poverty; and leaving us without adequate water and sanitation infrastructure. Equal access to safe, affordable water and adequate sanitation in the U.S. disproportionately impacts poor people, Black and Brown communities, Indigenous Peoples, Women, the disabled and other groups that have historically faced discrimination.”

While still calling attention to the ongoing and worsening violations of the human rights to water and sanitation within the US, this hearing request distinguishes itself from the hearing in October by highlighting emerging better practices. Specifically, coalition members highlight Philadelphia’s new Income-Based Water Affordability Program and the California Human Right to Water Law as two of these emerging better practices to examine and support on a broader scale.

“These innovations are important, but they can’t fix the water and sanitation crisis in the U.S. on their own. The U.S. government needs to take a leadership role to elevate these better practices, create sustainable solutions to this crisis, and make it a priority to ensure that every person in the U.S. has safe, affordable and adequate drinking water and sanitation,” explained Britton Schwartz a Clinical Fellow at the Santa Clara Law International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC).

The coalition also submitted last week a letter to President Obama calling for the forthcoming U.S. National Action Plan on Responsible Business Conduct to address the human rights to water and sanitation.

If the hearing request is accepted, it will take place during the 157th Period of Sessions of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, held from April 2-15, 2016 in Washington, DC.

A copy of the request for the hearing can be found at:



The US Human Rights Network (USHRN) is a national network of organizations and individuals working to strengthen a human rights movement and culture within the United States led by the people most directly impacted by human rights violations. It is a network of over 300 organizational members that is working to popularize human rights in communities across the United States in order to secure dignity and justice for all.